I discovered Reffen several years ago on my last day on vacation in late July in Copenhagen, Denmark at its old location on Paper Island.  

When I first entered Paper Island, I was met with a beautiful view of the Copenhagen waterfront and a cool breeze. I walked into the vast warehouse-like space, pushing through crowds of bustling tourists and Danes alike to get from one kiosk-sized stall to another. Though the space was large, it maintained a friendly, vibrant, and lively atmosphere. As I roamed the premises, aromas from a variety of different cuisines– Italian, Mexican, Indian, Japanese— wafted towards me. There were seemingly endless possibilities, leaving me overwhelmed, but giddy. 

I was most attracted to two stalls: one selling dumplings, another selling sushi rolls. My meal was so delicious that I still dream about it years later. The dumplings were soft, juicy, and flavorful. The sushi roll was unlike traditional sushi, but had a unique flavor profile from the addition of crunchy shrimp tempura and tasty sauces. My experience at Reffen was so delightful that it was what ultimately encouraged me as a sustainable foodie to choose to study abroad in Copenhagen.

While Copenhagen is a common study abroad destination for college students because of its scenic canals, walkability, and delicious food, after doing some research I discovered that groceries and meals can get particularly pricey. One meal at a mid priced restaurant on average can cost roughly $45 to $55 in Copenhagen. Compare this to $10-20 from a typical meal at Reffen, and you can see why I loved it so much.

Post-covid, Reffen has relocated to Refshaleøen, about a 30-minute walk from Nyhavyn. The concept remains the same. The space is still on the waterfront, so the gorgeous views and summer breeze I experienced can still be enjoyed by visitors. Currently, the options for food are diverse with more than 18 nationalities represented in the stalls in the 6,000 square meter street-food market.

What kinds of food can you currently find at Reffen?

Reffen’s food stalls rotate, so they are not currently the same stalls from when I visited. However, Reffen typically has a diverse array of cuisines represented. From pasta, Mexican street food, French cuisine, and even Kurdish street food, Reffen has it.

Couple Shayan Shadala and Rojgar Hama Jaza opened up Gosht featuring Kurdish foods like the Silêmanî kebab to share their love of Kurdish food and culture with the people of Copenhagen.

For students missing a taste of home, one stall is bringing the United States to Copenhagen with New Orleans soul food and seafood. Chef Anders Mabek of Big Easy has curated a menu featuring mouth-watering dishes like Cajun gumbo Stew and a house smoked Pork burger. 

And for health nuts, concepts like The Green Garden and Ramsløg might be of interest. The Green Garden makes freshly squeezed juices and smoothies that could pair perfectly with Ramsløg's salads and wraps.

For the benefit of the environment, all Reffen’s food stalls closely follow Reffen’s sustainability guidelines, primarily incorporating organic, sustainable ingredients and packaging. Even the space is built upon recycled, old ship containers. Stall owners are selected based on how well their concepts follow Reffen’s central dogmas — “reduce and reuse.” Stalls can even be financially compensated for becoming “Organic Cuisine Label” certified. 

Reffen’s ability to support the environment is complemented by its contributions to aspiring entrepreneurs and the surrounding community. Each stall owner gets three years at Reffen to “learn how to stand on their own feet” before moving on. These stalls and their surrounding space provide gathering spots for locals and visitors alike. Locals take an active seat in developing the area, and participate in weekly events like bingo, concerts, workshops, and more. Visitors are welcomed into the community to not just dine, but engage in the local events. Although I entered as an outsider, Reffen’s strong presence as a social gathering point for the community was not off putting.

How does Reffen work?

When I visited, I simply bought my food from two separate stalls and found a picnic bench to sit on with my mom. Alternatively, visitors may book a table for a two-hour time slot. During your visit, you can visit as many of their vendors as you would like and all food and drinks are self-service.

For those planning to visit be sure to double check their opening hours, as they are closed during the winter months. For more information visit Reffen’s FAQ page on their website.